By Alyssa McMurtry
Acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lost his bid to form a government in Parliament Friday evening, triggering a two-month countdown for lawmakers to form a new coalition or face a third round of elections this December.
Spain has been without a government for more than eight months. Voters first went to the polls last December and again in June, with Rajoy’s party winning minority governments in both elections. However, Rajoy has failed to gain the needed majority support in Parliament.
On Friday he needed a simple majority, but while 170 lawmakers voted in his favor, 180 voted against him.
Debating before the vote, the major parties blamed one another for the frustrating state of political deadlock.
Rajoy argued that since his party won the elections, he should be the choice to govern, blaming the second-place Socialist Party for not accepting his offer to join him in a grand coalition.
“The socialist group is declining to permit the only viable government,” said Rajoy. “A lack of government carries costs, and a high bill will have to be paid among all the Spanish people.”
Pedro Sanchez, leader of the socialists, accused Rajoy of wanting third elections, which could take place on Christmas Day if the date of the Spanish electoral calendar is not altered. He said that Rajoy has lost the confidence of the Spanish people through harsh austerity measures, corruption scandals, and an escalating conflict with independence-minded Catalonia.
Now Spanish law will allow the feuding politicians two months to agree on a government, or Spain will see its third national elections within little more than a year. Within these two months, new candidates can attempt to form coalitions, or Rajoy could repeat his attempt. With little change since December’s first inconclusive elections, no obvious coalition is in sight.
So far Spain’s economy has weathered the political uncertainty in stride, but upcoming EU budget deadlines are increasing the pressure on Spanish lawmakers to form a government able to pass an updated budget.